Monday, November 23, 2009

Stay Awake.

Last Sunday of the Church Year
Mark 13:24-37
Bror Erickson

[35] Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning— [36] lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. [37] And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake." Mark 13:35-37 (ESV)

Stay awake. Of course this is metaphorical. Christ does not expect us to spend our entire lives with our eyes open, not sleeping. Some monkish orders have tried that sort of thing. Staying awake here is metaphorical of keeping the faith alive, clinging to the hope that we all share in Jesus Christ who died and rose again from the dead on our behalf. We don’t lose this faith when we shut our eyes after a hard days work, for some well earned rest. God, Jesus, expect us to sleep, Jesus himself slept. The great thing about faith is you don’t have to be conscious of it to have it. Even when you sleep, go into a coma, or are incapable of coherent thought, it is possible to have faith, perhaps even more possible than when you are awake and alert to what is happening around you. This because faith is a gift of God. As we learn in Ephesians 2.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” ( Ephes. 2:8 (ESV)

Faith is a gift of God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that comes upon us through the hearing of the gospel. It is a gift that God has made clear is to be both for us and for our children bestowed upon us and them in baptism.
“And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." (Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)
And it is this faith that saves us by grabbing hold of the grace of God, who gave His only begotten Son to this world that who ever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. We are saved in other words by the sheer grace and mercy of God, who has made us alive in Christ, burying us into His baptism, that just as He was raised from the dead we might walk in the newness of life. (Romans 6:4) He wakes us from our slumber, from our unbelief.
Then he tells us what he told to the disciples : Stay awake. You don’t know when the Master is going to return. As it says elsewhere he will come like a thief in the night, which means nothing more than unexpectedly. Stay awake.
I’ve seen it now, not a few times. People who gambled on sleep and won. May we thank God that He has had mercy on their souls! Because I have also seen those who gambled and lost, that is never woke up, never returned to the faith. There really is no sin that God is not willing to forgive, except the sin against the Holy Spirit, but if you have committed that you aren’t that concerned about it. That is such a deep sleep that you won’t be roused enough to worry about it. And if you are worried about it, then you haven’t committed it. But there are sins unto death, that John talks about, but unfortunately doesn’t list for us. And it isn’t that these sins are so gross that they can’t be forgiven. They in the grand scheme of things are not any worse than any other sin we commit, even daily. Some days I dwell on sin, the concept of it, and how it manifests itself in our lives, believe me we have more to repent of than we will ever know! But some sins have a way of pulling us away from God, over powering us, and leading us astray, putting us to sleep.
Automatically, we begin to think of murder, adultery, theft, and sins grosser to our imagination. Does my heart every grieve to hear of child molestation, incest, and child abuse. And I go to the jail on Tuesday evenings. I talk to men who have lived a hell of abuse and being abused since the day they were born, some of them victims as much as they are victimizers. Sometimes I wonder though, if for some perverted reason we Christians worry more about the victimizers than the victims? Thankfully, I don’t normally know the story of many of those men. When I hear of some guys like Allgier, the white supremicist who shot the guard who brought him to the hospital, let me tell you I don’t think first of sharing the gospel with the man. When I hear of a man who incestuously raped his daughter through her teen years, not just a bit of anger and disgust is aroused in my heart. We think of these sins as those that lead unto death, and so they can. They have enough power over a man’s conscience to cause such great despair he will not allow himself to be forgiven for them. Cause him to reject the faith all together. The devil is great at causing us to sleep, for fear that our sins are too great to be forgiven.
Jesus tells us to stay awake, stay faithful. He gives us the tools to keep our faith alive. The church is here to help. The office of the ministry, according to our Lutheran Confessions, is created by Christ to keep the gospel in front of us. Pastors are called to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments, forgive sins, constantly point his congregation and others to the cross where Christ died, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Christ appoints pastors to keep us awake, to keep us vigilant. Why? Because it is much easier to lose sight of the gospel, than it is to commit adultery, which is to say pretty easy. The world has so many tricks to lead us away. At first perhaps by getting us to commit a sin that makes us too embarrassed to show our face in church. Or perhaps, we just don’t think it is that important.
I wrestle with this. I see parents who stop taking their kids to church, who don’t bring their children to confirmation. My soul grieves. Especially in this area. For the first step is to separate us from the Means of Grace: God’s word read and faithfully preached, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution. And sometimes that means drawing you away to a church that preaches something more “relevant.” How many times have I heard something to the effect that, “it can’t be about the forgiveness of sins, there has got to be more.” No there doesn’t people. Your sins are forgiven. That is IT! Everything else pales in comparison. The whole Bible is about Christ, Johnn 5:39, and Christ is about the Cross, where your sins are forgiven! And you need to hear it over and over again, because it is so easy to be drawn away from it. To let your sins get in the way of the message. And when you think you don’t need to hear it anymore, that is when there is real danger! When you think it isn’t important for your children to hear it, and be instructed in it, that is when there is real danger! For then the devil slips in with a new message, and subtly puts you to sleep. He lets you think you are not a sinner in need of forgiveness. That you are good enough. He tempts you ill instructed children away with the promise of a charming husband or wife not of the same faith. All you have to do is change faiths. He sends you to a church with a rock band, where the pastor gives you sound instruction on living a morally decent life, but rarely mentions the cross. He seduces you as he does so many with the doctrine of progressive sanctification. False doctrine, that is the devils best trick, it leads to false belief, despair and other great shame and vice, but it can sound so good. It appeals to our Old Adam, our inborn sinful nature, tells us we can! Tells us we can overcome our sin, progressively get better, convinces us that the cross was needless, we aren’t so bad that Christ had to die for us, and then we sleep. For as sure as you are of flesh and blood, you are a sinner in need of Christ.
Wake Up! Wake Up you who sleep! Wake up from your sin, the Son is shining from the cross from which comes the forgiveness of your sins. Bask in that light, live in it. It is your hope, you salvation, and our Lord returns soon. Wake up today, you have today. Tomorrow may come, but you have today. And today your sins are forgiven.

Now the peace of God that Surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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